Lorenz on Leadership -- Greeting Carmen

General Stephen R. Lorenz is the Air Education and Training Command commander.

General Stephen R. Lorenz is the Air Education and Training Command commander.

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- If you haven't seen the Air Education and Training Command headquarters building, you're missing out. It is a grand, historic building that was built in the 1930s, nestled under age-old oak trees. Although initially used as an academic hall for new Air Force aviators, the building has had many uses over the years. Today it, along with sister buildings of the same era, houses members of the headquarters Air Education and Training Command staff. For those in the main building, standing on the red-tiled sidewalk that leads to the front doors every morning is Carmen.

Carmen is an important part of my morning routine. You see, each morning I park my car in front of the headquarters building and walk up that wide, red-tiled sidewalk to the front doors of the building. There she stands, working with a mop in hand, water pail nearby, and a bright smile that stretches from ear to ear. I always stop and talk with Carmen -- she makes a difference in everything she touches.

Carmen is an unassuming, humble woman with a sparkling, energetic outlook that can make even the darkest day feel brighter. Through the years, she has worked to help support her family and has successfully raised two sons, now grown and on their own.

Although Carmen has held many different positions at military locations around San Antonio, she has made Randolph shine for the last eight years. Today, she isn't just responsible for the headquarters building. Carmen can be seen all over the base. You'll find her at the 99th Flying Training Squadron, the chapel, and even at the base fitness center. Carmen is everywhere, greeting dozens of people every day, and this base is better because of her.

Carmen works to ensure that her labor achieves the right effect -- that everyone who drives past, visits or works in the building feels a part of something special. The headquarters building routinely hosts foreign ministers of defense, air chiefs, and American civic and military leaders; and represents the nearly 90,000 men and women worldwide that belong to Air Education and Training Command. The building is an integral part of the organization and is everyone's first impression at work every day. It all starts with Carmen's attention to detail.

Carmen's professionalism is evident all over the base and it stems from pride. She never complains about her responsibilities and relishes the opportunity to make a difference. If she sees the flag in the front of the building rolled up by a gust of wind, she unfurls it. Dust on a ledge doesn't stand a chance. She's never idle, always taking the initiative to exceed expectations and set a higher standard. Everything she touches is better as a result.

You must realize that in Carmen's line of work, a job well done is rarely noticed or lauded. We, as a people, don't notice clean, but we do notice dirty. Carmen understands this and quietly creates a positive impact on the headquarters staff. Others instinctively and unknowingly follow her lead in their areas of responsibility and push for the same standard of excellence that Carmen sets daily. Such excellence becomes ingrained in the organization's culture. After all, people are far more likely to pick up a lone piece of trash on the floor than a floor littered with many. This adage goes for all things, not just trash.

What has impressed me most about Carmen, however, is her positive attitude. There is a lot to be said about someone who sees the world as being a "glass half-full." True, we must guard such optimism with realism, but it is far easier (and more fun) to follow a positive, energetic leader than one who exudes negative gloom. Such a positive attitude is contagious to the entire organization and has a positive impact both up and down the chain of command. It is a key element of any successful team.

The one problem is that Carmen is so effective and efficient that her work begins to blend into the building. After awhile, it can be easy to forget the importance of her labors. I get accustomed to seeing her on the red-tiled walkway and the routine becomes an expectation. I sometimes forget to appreciate her impact.

We must not forget that everyone in the organization makes a difference. No one person or position is of greater value than another; all are equal in the pursuit of excellence and all contribute to the Air Force mission. We cannot afford to take anyone for granted, military, civilian or contractor. The mission and our culture would suffer as a result.

All of us know people like Carmen, those at your base who quietly make a difference in people's lives. Take time to recognize and appreciate everyone. And the next time you find yourself at headquarters Air Education and Training Command, take time to greet Carmen on the red-tiled sidewalk. She's made a difference in my life and I know she'll make a difference in yours.